By Alfa · Apr 20, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    WAUSAU - Wausau-area police officers are using their expertise in observing
    signs of drug use to test the accuracy of a device that could revolutionize
    the way they detect whether a driver is on drugs.

    By testing drivers' saliva, the device may be able to confirm for officers
    whether someone has used cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines or other
    drugs before getting behind the wheel.

    To use the device, an officer swabs a driver's mouth and inserts the swab
    into a hand-held machine with a display that indicates whether drugs are
    present. The testing began in Wausau in the past several weeks.

    Tests on the device are being conducted at sites in five states and six
    other countries. The Wausau area was chosen because several officers here
    have been trained as drug recognition experts.

    Wausau Police Officers Ben Bliven and Matt Barnes, who have received such
    training, use a 45-minute, 12-step test on the city's streets to determine
    which drugs a driver has used and how the drugs affect judgment on the
    road. During traffic stops and crash investigations, drug recognition
    experts record details about a person, such as body temperature and pupil
    size, that show that his or her driving has been affected by drugs. As part
    of the study, officers ask drivers they suspect of using drugs if they will
    allow their saliva to be tested with the device.

    Officers plan to collect 250 samples during the next several months that
    they will submit to scientists at the State Laboratory of Hygiene.

    The outcome of the study will affect whether the device becomes
    commercially available to law enforcement agencies. The purpose of the
    study is to evaluate the accuracy of the device and be sure it meets police

    The device could eventually be a good tool for schools to determine if
    students have taken drugs before going to class, Bliven said.

    The study is partially financed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and
    the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It's part of a
    continuing effort by police to crack down on drivers who use drugs,
    including over-the-counter medications, and continue to drive even though
    their ability to observe, react and stay alert on the road could be impaired.

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